Atletico Madrid

The 2018/19 La Liga season kicks off this weekend, with 10 first round matches spread from Friday to Monday and set to feature some of the finest football players on the planet.

The action gets underway with two matches on Friday, 17 August. First up, Girona will play host to promoted side Real Valladolid. The former will look to Uruguay attacker Christian Stuani for inspiration, while Valladolid can call on up-and-coming Moroccan midfielder Anuar Tuhami.

The second Friday night game will see Ryad Boudebouz looking to pull the strings for Real Betis at home to a Levante side which can call on several African stars, including new signings Moses Simon and Raphael Dwamena, as well as Emmanuel Boateng and Cheick Doukoure.

Saturday features Celta de Vigo at home to Espanyol and Villarreal hosting Real Sociedad, before the late kick-off sees champions Barcelona begin the defence of their title at the Camp Nou against Deportivo Alves.

Barca, who finished the 2017/18 season at the head of the Spanish top flight with a haul of 93 points (14 clear of second-placed Atletico Madrid), start the new campaign as the favourites to claim a 26th Liga title.

Coach Ernesto Valverde can call on much the same team that won the championship last term, with Andres Iniesta and Paulinho the only notable departures, while they have added strength in depth with the signings of Malcom, Clement Lenglet, Arturo Vidal and Arthur. Yet the incomparable Lionel Messi remains their key man.

Sunday’s first game sees promoted side Huesca have their very first taste of La Liga action, as they visit Papakouli Diop’s Eibar, followed by Rayo Vallecano (who also earned promoted from the second tier at the end of last season, and feature the skills of Lass Boungoura and Gael Kakuta) hosting Sevilla.

Real Madrid will have their La Liga match under the guidance of new manager Julen Lopetegui when they host Getafe in the late kick-off on Sunday. The former Spanish national team coach will be looking to show that Los Blancos’ success will continue unabated despite the departure of both Zinedine Zidane and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Monday’s early game is arguably the pick of the first round, as Marcelino’s Valencia host Atletico Madrid at the Mestalla. The Madrid side, who feature Ghanaian Thomas Partey in midfield and have retained the services of World Cup-winning striker Antoine Griezmann, will be looking to make a stronger challenge for La Liga honours this season.

The first round is wrapped up with a 22:00 kick-off on Monday night which sees Athletic Bilbao host Nabil El Zhar’s Leganes.

Key matches – Stats

Barcelona v Alaves – Head-to-head, all competitions
Matches played 21
Barcelona wins 15
Alaves wins 4
Draws 2

Real Madrid v Getafe – Head-to-head, all competitions
Matches played 26
Real wins 19
Getafe wins 5
Draws 2

Valencia v Atletico – Head-to-head, all competitions
Matches played 54
Valencia wins 20
Atletico wins 19
Draws 15

La Liga fixtures, Friday, 17 August to Monday, 20 August

Friday, 17 August
20:15  Girona v Real Valladolid –SuperSport 7, Maximo 2, Select 4
22:15  Real Betis v Levante – SuperSport 7, Maximo 2, Maximo 360, Select 4

Saturday, 18 August
18:15 - Celta de Vigo v Espanyol – SuperSport 7, SuperSport 10, Select 2
20:15 - Villarreal v Real Sociedad – SuperSport 7, Maximo 2, Select 4
22:15 - Barcelona v Deportivo Alaves – SuperSport 7, Maximo 2, Select 4

Sunday, 19 August
18:15 - Eibar v Huesca – SuperSport 7, SuperSport 10, Maximo 360, Select 2
20:15 - Rayo Vallecano v Sevilla – SuperSport 7, Maximo 2, Select 4
22:15 - Real Madrid v Getafe – SuperSport 7, Maximo 2, Select 4

Monday, 20 August
20:00 - Valencia v Atletico Madrid – SuperSport 7, Maximo 2, Select 4
22:00 - Athletic Bilbao v Leganes – SuperSport 7, Maximo 2, Select 4